• Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Amend
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: United Nations Environment Programme (1 hits), UNEP (1 hits),

Full Submission

Rio+20: Improving Urban Development in Africa, for Environment, Safety and Accessibility

A submission to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development by the UNEP ?Share the Road? Initiative and Amend

Rob de Jong, Head of Transport, UNEP and Tom Bishop, Africa Director of Amend

November 2011


UNEP?s Share the Road initiative and Amend recognise the natural confluence of safe roads and sustainable transport. We are both working in Sub-Saharan Africa to improve nonmotorised transport, to make cities safer, to reduce pollution and to increase accessibility.

Share the Road is an initiative led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to promote policies in government and donor agencies for systematic investments in walking and cycling road infrastructure, integrated with mass transit systems.

Amend is an NGO operating in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the objective of reducing the number of children killed and injured on the roads.

We welcome Rio+20 as an important opportunity to highlight a cost-effective solution to many of the most urgent problems associated with road development in urban Africa ? increased investments in walking and cycling infrastructure.

This submission details our contribution to the Compilation Document, which will serve as basis for the preparation of the Rio+20 Outcome Document. It focuses on the sectoral priority of sustainable urbanisation, through the development of non-motorised transport infrastructure, which will also contribute to a green economy and poverty reduction.

A Cost-Effective Solution to Some Major Global Problems

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally more than 1.3 million people are killed every year due to urban outdoor air pollution. Up to 90% of this air pollution comes from the emissions of motor vehicles, and road transport is the fastest-growing sector for greenhouse gas emissions. WHO statistics also show that more than 1.2 million fatalities and 50 million serious injuries are caused each year by road crashes. 90% of these fatalities occur in low- and middle-income countries where pedestrians and cyclists make up the majority of people killed or injured.

Investing in road infrastructure for walking and cycling leads to massive benefits in environment, safety and accessibility. It reduces emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, protects vulnerable road users and income earning adults from high-speed motor traffic, and increases affordable access to vital services and employment.

Roads for Some versus Roads for All

Sub-Saharan Africa has the most dangerous roads in the world, with a road fatality rate of 28.3 per 100,000 people. Despite the fact that millions of lives could be saved and pollution and poverty could be reduced, urban development in Africa continues to benefit the carowning minority, at the cost of the majority who walk, cycle and use public transport. The majority have lost their place on the roads. Pedestrians and cyclists - users of the most healthy, clean and resource-efficient forms of transport - have been pushed out to make way for bigger roads and bigger vehicles. They are now the group of road users most at risk of death and injury through crashes and health problems related to pollution.

Saving lives will help to reduce poverty, as so often those who are killed and injured are young adults and children. The death or disability of a breadwinner can push a family deeper into poverty, and a sick or injured child will suffer through absence from school while at the same time costing the family in medical fees. In addition, the healthcare costs from urban air pollution are estimated to cost up to 5% of GDP in developing countries.

The Cost of Inaction

Sub-Saharan Africa has an average GDP growth rate of 5.1%, which should mean ample domestic and foreign investments in sustainable road infrastructure. Without such investments, road fatalities in 2020 will be 80% higher than now. The problem in urban areas will be amplified due to the fact that more than 300 million residents will be added to Africa?s cities in the next 25 years. The majority of these rural to urban migrants will rely on the most affordable and accessible modes of transport ? walking and cycling ? for which minuscule investments are currently made.

In addition to the exponential rates of urbanization, the population of Africa will grow by more than a billion people by 2050. Africa?s rate of motorization is one of the fastest in the world, with thousands of cars added to the roads every day. Globally, the number of private motor vehicles is forecast to triple by 2050. Two-thirds of this explosive growth will take place in non-OECD countries such as those in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Change is Possible

There are ways to drastically reduce the forecast congestion, pollution, and deaths and injuries, while at the same time bridging the gap between the rich and poor. This solution is to build cities that thrive on integrated, multi-modal transport systems. In modern, green and efficient systems, non-motorised transport will be at the core of mobility planning and implementation.

The critical change needed at the level of decision-makers in government and donor agencies is to systematically allocate funds for walking and cycling infrastructure in all urban transport investments. Even a small proportion of funds would go a long way in making investments more accountable and beneficial to the majority of the population, instead of only benefiting the car-using minority. In turn, such investments will support governments in meeting the overarching goal of poverty reduction, as envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals.

There have been successes in Africa, through both the Share the Road initiative and the work of Amend. For example, the Kenyan government has enacted a policy change whereby walking and cycling facilities are incorporated into its urban road designs. There are also positive developments in Uganda and Rwanda, and in Tanzania where Amend is working to improve the walk to school for tens of thousands of school children. But more needs to be done in these countries as well as the whole of Africa.

The focus of Rio+20 is green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development. The international community would be hard-pressed to ignore the rationale and feasibility of increasing investments in walking and cycling on Africa?s roads. The hundreds of millions of people moving around our cities by foot or bicycle, going to school and work, going to meet friends and family, at great undue risk to their lives. They deserve a strong call for action on this occasion of Rio+20.
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